Some people may be born athletes. Others may be pushed into athletics by over-achieving parents vicariously pursuing latent Olympic dreams. The rest of us are left to fumble and flail about in various playing fields to measure our own athletic aptitude. I discovered, through nature and nurture, that I am not an athlete.
My elusion of sports-like activity stems from a combination of lack of opportunity and disinterest. This makes my failure list for physical and social reasons. Thankfully, despite women’s lib and athletic equality between genders, being a girl who doesn’t play sports doesn’t hold the same social stigma as it did for boys. I’m no less of a woman because I didn’t have a catch with my mom. But maybe I could’ve fared better in a social realm if I hadn’t feigned injury to get out of playing volleyball in junior high.
There are a few things you should know about the wee Katharine. When I was seven years old, we discovered three important things:
1. I needed glasses.
2. I couldn’t hear very well.
3. I was allergic to insect bites/stings.
As a result, we also learned:
4. Children are insensitive little bastards.
5. I am a crybaby.
I invite you to reach back into your own childhood psyche, to imagine that you are six or seven years old, everything’s kind of a blur, sounds a little bit muffled. Then imagine 20 kids shouting and taunting, with some sort of vaguely round-ish object hurtling towards your face. You might shed a couple of tears of frustration yourself.
My newly discovered physical handicaps were enough to convince my mother that I should be indoors at all times. The public school system rarely agreed with her. And in lower Alabama, the weather doesn’t much warrant much indoor play. However, after a few convincing notes from my doctor, the Phys. Ed. coach gave me an exemption from kick ball. In grades four through six, the school found indoor activities to occupy me with during the outdoor sessions of P.E. But the earlier years scarred me just enough, thank you.
My one official experience in being on a team comes from my grade school. It had a school-wide mandatory program that split each class into two teams: the Green team and the Gold team. I was on the Gold team. My spiky-haired boy crush of the time was on the Green team. O ill-fated stars! Woe! Every spring, the school would hold a festival where the teams played different games, did some sort of a relay race, and other activities which I have blocked from my memory. I think of my five years at the school, the Gold team won once. Which led to the next lesson:
6. I am a sore loser.
During school hours, we didn’t have many opportunities for team sports. When it was kickball season, one half of the class would be pitted against the other half to battle it out for half an hour. Sometimes other kids would show up to school in various sporting jerseys, advertising their upcoming game against some other pee-wee league team. Only then would I feel a twinge of envy, that someone belonged to something that I didn’t. I felt the same way about the Girl Scouts. Did I really want to wear a uniform? No one ever asked and I just assumed these were secret clubs. For all I knew, getting into girl’s softball was like trying to join the Freemasons.
Eventually puberty and laziness set in and I couldn’t be motivated to do anything but watch cable television and listen to my Billy Joel tapes. Most sports took place outdoors and I still wasn’t allowed to play outside. Indoor sports at school were limited to basketball, volleyball and the occasional roller skating excursion. Roller skating tended to be first. I remember because I would injure my ankle and bench myself for the rest of the winter.
If I am not an athlete, you’d be correct in assuming that I am not an athletic supporter. The closest I’ve come to being a cheerleader is making an off-colour remark while watching my high school boyfriend kick his friend’s ass at Mortal Kombat.
Occasionally I’ll see a casual game of softball or watch a bowling league in action and ponder what it might be like to have that kind of social interaction. Though my handicaps haven’t wholly disappeared, I am not the same crybaby confused by blurry rounded objects. If I joined a team, would they be good natured about my lack of skill and natural athleticism or roll their eyes and heave impatient sighs when I goofed up? Are there beginner level teams for people my age? Could I wear a uniform? Most importantly, could I get over the fact that I am a Sore Loser. Maybe I can find a group of disaffected thirty-year olds who hang out on the bleachers and make snarky comments instead.